Yesterday, we shared the interview with José Ignacio Fernández, one of the three outstanding Young Education Leaders named by Microsoft and the British Council this year who was recognized at the Education Leaders Briefing yesterday night. The three winners have contributed significantly to the development of globally aware young people through the innovative use of technology in education.
Today, I’m happy to share the story of Vera de Leon Ramírez, educational coordinator of Casa Telmex Saltillo, which aims to provide children, starting as young as four years old, with opportunities to learn how to use computers, digital art, science, electronics, animation, programming and robotics. “At Casa Telmex, we provide all the necessary technology and encourage our visitors to imagine new uses for it,” says de Leon Ramírez. “These skills will build confidence and help them create a better future.” She has created two programming and robotics clubs that all of her students – regardless of age – can join.
In addition to running Casa Telmex, de Leon Ramírez is also a psychologist. She uses her background to integrate innovative ways of using technology in education. De Leon Ramírez works closely with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, and says Mitchel Resnick – developer of Scratch, head of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT and Daily Edventures alumni – is her personal hero. “I personally believe that the resources we provide to children and young people help them to acquire different skills in a well-sustained environment,” says de Leon Ramírez. “We are committed to using technology in education to make our world a better place to live.”
It’s my pleasure to share today’s Daily Edventure with Vera de Leon Ramírez.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
Back in 2010, we wanted our kindergarten-age children to learn about programming and robotics, just like they learn how to read and distinguish the colors at school, so we did our best to create an inclusive environment, no matter if they can read or write. So after two years of hard work, we are proud to say that other educators are inspired by us and want children as young as kindergarten to learn how to use technology.
The most wonderful gift we have received after two years is to know that breaking paradigms – about what kindergarteners “can” or “cannot ” do and learn – is changing people’s lives though their passion for fun learning using cutting edge technology.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
I think that the most important experience that I can share with them is getting people to change is never easy, but if they are strong and work hard to achieve their goals, they will.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
Our educational programs include permanent programming and robotics workshops using Scratch, PicoBoard and PicoCricket, developed at MIT Media Lab; LEGO MindStorms and LEGO WeDo, only available in Casa Telmex; and Aula Digital Telmex (Telmex Digital Classrooms) at no cost. Currently in the Robotics Clubs (for kids from four to 18 years old), we work through projects focused on a common goal, decision making, problem solving, team work, formulating hypotheses (inductive and deductive) based on research and evaluation of results.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
The biggest obstacle is the access to technology. In Mexico, there are only a few places where children and youth can explore, learn, and create science and technology.
What is your country doing well currently to support education?
There are different programs in Mexico to homologize opportunities in education and government invests in a gradual level to provide schools with educational technology.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
The governments should promote access to technology; integrate educational technology and modern environments for students to learn in every school in the country (justice in education).
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
The best opportunity is for all education leaders to invest in education and to assure that teachers and students in Mexico have what they need for better results.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
Whatever it is around you, ask yourself if somebody can do it better and faster. Keep going, no matter how hard you have to work and no matter how lonely you seem to be. One day, you will see that there are hundreds of people fighting for the same ideas and dreams and even those who resisted changing will be ready to do it.
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
The use of educational technology for the students to work collaboratively, think creatively to solve their own difficulties through exploration.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
A robotics kit, because even if kids use a computer at home or at school, they don’t realize that there are other tools like robotics kits that allow them to ask and answer their own questions about their reality — in the past, present and future.
About Vera de León Ramírez
- Birthplace: San Pedro de las Colonias, Coahuila de Zaragoza, Mexico
- Current residence: Saltillo, Coahuila de Zaragoza, Mexico
- Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
- Website I check every day: www.facebook.com
- Person who inspires me most: Mitchel Resnick (Professor of Learning Research at MIT Media Lab)
- Favorite childhood memory: my friends and I playing basketball.
- Next travel destination (work or pleasure): London, to attend The Education Leaders Briefing, The Education World Forum 2013, the BETT Show and other activities.
- When was the last time you laughed? Why?: A few days ago, after drinking my coffee at Starbucks, I deactivated the alarm and tried to get in the car, but I thought the car door knob was broken or something, then, I saw the car and realized that my car was not the one I tried to get in, but the next one.
- Favorite book: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez)
- Favorite music: The Beatles
- Your favorite quote or motto: “You can’t say you know how to do something, until you can teach it to someone else.”